By Lena Rizkallah, Money Moxie
Almost everyone has a bucket list. Whether your dream is to learn how to pilot an airplane, spend six months hiking in South America, teach English in India or ride elephants in Cambodia, a bucket list is personal and often includes a dose of adventure and travel. I recently met with two entrepreneurs who are capitalizing on planning, packaging and helping women check off some of their once-in-a-lifetime dreams through their new company, WHOA Travel (that’s: Women High On Adventure).
Meet the Founders of WHOA
Allison Fleece and Danielle Thornton met only last March when they were part of a group that hiked Mount Kilimanjaro. From that life-changing trip, WHOA Travel was born and the two women found their new friendship blossoming into a partnership. Coming from the international education industry, Allison had always enjoyed travel but thrived in more adventurous trips, experiences where she could push herself but also give back a little. Danielle, who is an associate creative director at an advertizing company, confesses that she’s always felt a never-ending hunger for travel and change, and that “I always knew I was going to leave Texas since I was a little girl!” (No offense, Texas!)
WHOA’s (www.WHOAtravel.com) mission is to organize trips for women that are fun, challenging and inspiring, and that allows the group to also give back. As Allison puts it, the purpose of WHOA is “to provide a transformative experience for women through travel; at the heart of every adventure is an advocacy project that gives back to women and local communities.”
For example, although last March’s Mt. Kili trip wasn’t an official WHOA adventure, Allison arranged for the group to volunteer at Give A Heart To Africa, a nonprofit based in Tanzania that helps provide women with skills and training they need to learn English and make a living.
WHOA’s Adventure Trips
Although WHOA is only a few months old, things are already full-steam ahead! For the 2013/2014 season, WHOA is organizing three adventure trips and is currently taking reservations. The first is a trip to the Alps and Bavaria in September where the group will bike, hike and paraglide through the Alps, with a pit stop at Oktoberfest, and ending with yoga in the park in Munich. All proceeds from yoga will go towards Give A Heart To Africa.
In March, the group will head back to Mt. Kilimanjaro for a seven-day trek with plans to summit on International Women’s Day, March 8, 2014, followed by another volunteer day and safari or resort options. Finally next summer 2014, the group plans to hike the Inca Trail. In addition to the three flagship trips, WHOA can also custom organize a special trip for individuals or groups who want to do something different.
This August, both women plan to leave their jobs and embark on a 7 week trip to Africa, Europe and South America in preparation for next year’s trips. They will be meeting with contacts for each adventure, make new connections and spend time with the community organizations. The passion and enthusiasm that Allison and Danielle have for their business is inspiring and contagious–I have a feeling they can persuade the most fearful traveler to hike Mt. Kilimanjaro!
The Early Days of WHOA
Although the energy and optimism at the new company is high, the ladies had to put some work into their partnership. Early on, they realized that they both approach work differently and also have different–but complementary–skill sets. Allison is the talker of the two, engaging and persuasive, while Danielle is in charge of branding and the creative aspects of the company. While their start was bumpy at times, since holding a “come to Jesus” meeting in which they were both painfully honest with each other about their goals and expectations, the business has run much more smoothly. They collaborate on everything and both agree that even their website reflects both personalities.
Is Entrepreneurship Right For You?
The ladies offer simple advice when it comes to starting a business. If you’re ready for a change and have an idea in mind, “put it out in the universe,” says Danielle. “I knew I wanted to do something different and I was open about it.” Allison agrees, adding, “You’ll never regret the risks you take, only those you don’t.”
Both Allison and Danielle agree that when it comes to picking a business partner, it’s important to respect one another and be brutally honest (but kind) with each other. Working with a business partner is like a balancing act, and as Danielle points out, “It’s harder to find the right business partner than a husband!”
And since they are both leaving their corporate jobs, both women have cut back on spending. Both are much more aware of their expenses, have stopped buying frivolous things and know that soon those regular paychecks will vanish so they have set and following their own strict budgets. Allison admits that since she’s eating in more, she’s actually eating healthier!
Go Tell It On The Mountain!
While Allison and Danielle are very aware of the risks of starting their own business, they are certain that there is a need and a demand for a company like WHOA. After all, many of us desire unique experiences and challenges, we dream of coming home from a foreign land with bragging rights, and we want to show our gratitude by giving back in some way. WHOA combines all three by offering unique once-in-a-lifetime trips for women around the world. As Danielle puts it, by taking on challenging trips like those that WHOA organizes, “you can change yourself, you can change the way you look at yourself and you can even change the world a little bit at the same time.”